KENTLAND — Firefighters have been on scene for more than 12 hours battling a blaze at a manufacturing site in Kentland.
First responders were called to the International Cushioning Company, located near the intersection of US 41 and US 24, around 8:30 p.m. Oct. 8.
More than 20 fire departments provided mutual aid with as many as five aerial trucks on scene fighting the fire at the facility, which produces bubble wrap and packing peanuts, both highly flammable.
Because of the polystyrene that was burning, the fumes from the fire were considered toxic, and an alert was made to Kentland residents to keep their windows shut. A hazmat team later determined, by doing air samples, that the toxic fumes had dispersed enough to not be considered a real threat to the Town of Kentland, but with the wind still blowing the smoke toward the town, the alert is still in effect.
The building was considered a total loss.
“A fire like that is almost impossible to fight because it spreads so quickly,” said Kentland Fire Chief Matt Wittenborn. “We threw more than 500,000 gallons of water at that fire last night. We were depleting the town’s water supply so after midnight, we had to start getting our water from the stone quarry.”
Wittenborn added that 15 employees were inside the facility at the time of the fire but they all made it out safely, and no injuries have been reported.
Fire crews from as far away as Warren and Cass counties helped with the massive fire. Several fire departments from Iroquois County, Ill., responded, including Donovan, Crescent-Iroquois and Sheldon.
“We got a lot of help last night, and the majority of them got very little sleep,” said Wittenborn. “I appreciate all the help. I even had off-duty Purdue firefighters call me up to see how they can help today. That is the type of brotherhood that is in the fire services. Ray Chambers, Newton County EMA director was also a huge help, as were the EMA directors from Benton and Tippecanoe counties.”
More excavation crews are en route to the scene now to move away debris so that firefighters can reach what remains of the fire.
“The problem now is that the roof collapsed and the fire is now where we can’t get to,” said Chambers.
Wittenborn added that the state fire marshal was expected around noon, as the cause of the fire is still unknown.